There is little doubt that valuing a business is often complex. In part, this complexity is due to the fact that business evaluation is subjective. The simple fact is that the value of a business is often left to the mercy of the person conducting the evaluation. Adding yet another level of complexity is the fact that the person conducting the valuation has no choice but to assume that all the information provided is, in fact, correct and accurate.
In this article, we will explore the six key issues that must be considered when determining the value of a business. As you will see, determining the value of a business involves taking in several factors.
Factor #1 – Intangible Assets
Intangible assets can make determining the value of a business quite tricky. Intellectual property ranging from patents to trademarks and copyrights can impact the value of a business. These intangible assets are notoriously difficult to value.
Factor #2 – Product Diversity
One of the truisms of valuing a business is that businesses with only one product or service are at much greater risk than a business that has multiple products or services. Product or service diversity will play a role in most valuations.
Factor #3 – ESOP Ownership
A company that is owned by its employees can present evaluators with a real challenge. Whether partially or completely owned by employees, this situation can restrict marketability and in turn impact value.
Factor #4 – Critical Supply Sources
If a business is particularly vulnerable to supply disruptions, for example, using a single supplier in order to achieve a low-cost competitive advance, then expect the evaluator to take notice. The reason is that a supply disruption could mean that a business’ competitive edge is subject to change and thus vulnerable. When supply is at risk then there could be a disruption of delivery and evaluators will notice this factor.
Factor #5 – Customer Concentration
If a company has just one or two key customers, which is often the situation with many small businesses, this can be seen as a serious problem.
Factor #6 – Company or Industry Life Cycle
A business, who by its very nature, may be reaching the end of an industry life cycle, for example, typewriter repair, will also face challenges during the evaluation process. A business that is facing obsolescence usually has bleak prospects.
There are other issues that can also impact the valuation of a company. Some factors can include out of date inventory, as well as reliance on short contracts and factors such as third-party or franchise approvals being necessary for selling a company. The list of factors that can negatively impact the value of a company is indeed long. Working with a business broker and a professional business appraiser is one way to address these potential problems before placing a business up for sale.Read More
Are you tempted to re-sell someone else’s product to boost your topline revenue?
On the surface, becoming a distributor for a popular product can appear to be a simple way to grow your sales—simply find something that is already proven to be successful elsewhere and negotiate the rights to sell it in your local market.
While distributing someone else’s product may be a relatively easy way to grow your topline, all that revenue growth may do little for your company’s value. A typical distribution company will be lucky to sell for 50% of one year’s revenue, whereas if you control your product or service—and the brand that embodies them—you should be able to do much better.
How Nike Became One of the World’s Most Valuable Companies
For an example of the dangers of not owning your own products, take a look at the evolution of Blue Ribbon Sports into Nike Inc. As Nike co-founder Phil Knight describes in his recent autobiography Shoe Dog, the company started off by negotiating the exclusive rights to sell Tiger running shoes in the United States. Knight’s company was called Blue Ribbon Sports and he imported the shoes from Onitsuka, a Japanese company.
Despite their exclusive agreement with Blue Ribbon, Onitsuka started to court other American dealers. When Knight protested the obvious breach of their contract, Onitsuka threatened a hostile takeover of Knight’s business or to shut him down outright. Knight’s company was tiny at the time and so deeply reliant on Onitsuka for supply, he could do virtually nothing to enforce their agreement.
Given its dependence on Onitsuka, Knight’s company would have scored close to zero out of a possible 100 on what we call The Switzerland Structure, a measure of your company’s reliance on a supplier, employee or customer. The Switzerland Structure is only one of eight value drivers we measure, but abysmal performance on any one factor can be a significant drag on the value of your business. Similar to having a high customer concentration, having all your eggs in only a few “supplier baskets” can have a real impact on the value of your business from a buyers lens.
Onitsuka’s snub became Knight’s impetus to start Nike, which gave him control of his marketing, supply and product development. Instead of simply re-selling someone else’s shoes, Nike developed their own designs and contracted the manufacturing of their products to other factories. By owning its own products and brands, Nike has become one of the world’s most valuable companies and regularly trades north of 20 times earnings.
To see how your business performs on The Switzerland Structure and the other seven factors that drive your company’s value, take 13 minutes and complete the Value Builder questionnaire now.Read More
- Neglecting the day-to-day running of their business with the reasoning that it will sell tomorrow– keeping your eye on the business is extremely important as buyers are looking to purchase successfully operated businesses. If your business slides so will your offers.
- Starting off with too high a price with the assumption the price can always be reduced- a proper valuation should be done to determine the best price to not leave any money on the table, yet not too high where buyers do not show any interest.
- Assuming that confidentiality is a given- proper steps can and should be taken to keep the sale of your business confidential but we are dealing with people and things happen. Proper steps will help reduce the risk and a business broker can help put these in place.
- Failing to plan ahead to sell / deciding to sell impulsively– business owners should really plan ahead 1-2 years plus when selling their business. Truly it is never too early to start planning.
- Expecting that the buyers will only want to see last year’s P&L– typically the last 3 years financials will need to be provided, and sometimes more. This is one of easiest and most overlooked items- you MUST keep your books accurate and up to date.
- Negotiating with only one buyer at a time and letting any other potential buyers wait their turn– theres a saying in the business sales industry- “one buyer is no buyer.” A broker can help manage this process to attract multiple buyers and offers at the same time.
- Having to reduce the price because the sellers want to retire and are not willing to stay with the acquirer for any length of time- naturally transition time is very important in the buyers eyes. Buyers simply will move on to another business where the seller will help with the transition improving the odds of success after the purchase. This is also a negotiation “term” to go along with the sale price.
- Not accepting that the structure of the deal is as important as the price– simply put… “You can’t separate the price from the terms.” Along with every offer not only will the price be different but so will the terms.
- Trying to win every point of contention- negotiating is just that… negotiating. Deals get done when both sides are will to compromise to reach a common goal- the sale of the business.
- Dragging out the deal and not accepting that time is of the essence– The 2 biggest items that kill deals are “time” and “surprises.” Think of it as a tennis match… as each offer or counter offer is made… you have “received the ball,” the idea is to quickly “return the ball” to the other player and not leave the ball in your court. This will help determine if a deal can be made and in a timely fashion saving time for all parties.
Are you stuck trying to figure out how to create some recurring revenue for your business? Here’s how one business owner quadrupled the value of their business in three moves.
You know those automatic sales will make your business more valuable and predictable, but the secret to transforming your company is to think less about what’s in it for you and more about coming up with a reason for customers to agree to a monthly bill.
Take a look at the transformation of Laura Steward’s company, Guardian Angel. Steward had gotten her IT consulting firm up to $400,000 in revenue when she called in a valuation consultant to help her put a price on her business. Steward was disappointed to learn her company was worth less than fifty percent of one year’s sales because she had no recurring revenue and what sales she did have were dependent on her personally.
Steward set about to transform her business into a more valuable company and made three big moves:
- Angel Watch
The first thing Steward did was to design a monthly program called Angel Watch, which offered her business clients ongoing protection from technology problems. Steward offered her Angel Watch customers ongoing remote monitoring of their networks, pre-emptive virus protection and staff on call if there was ever a problem.
Steward approached her clients with a calculation of what they had spent with her firm over the most recent 12-month period, including the cost of her customer’s downtime. She made the case that by signing up for Angel Watch, they would save money when taking into consideration both the hard costs of her firm’s time and the soft costs associated with downtime.
90% of her customers switched from hourly billing to the Angel Watch program.
- Doubling Rates
Next Steward doubled her personal consulting rates. That way, when one of the customers who decided not to opt into Angel Watch called her firm, they were quoted one rate for a technician’s time or twice the price to have Steward herself. Not surprisingly, most customers opted for the cheaper option and others chose to re-consider their decision not to sign up for Angel Watch.
- Survivor Clause
Steward also credits a small legal manoeuvre for further driving up the value of her business. She included a “survivor clause” in her Angel Watch contracts, which stipulated that the obligations of the agreement would “survive” a change of ownership of her company.
Steward went on to successfully sell her business at a price that was more than four times the original valuation she had received just two years prior to launching Angel Watch.
In order to get top dollar for your business, it is necessary to prepare for the sale well in advance. In short, a tremendous amount of strategy and preparation goes into a successful sale. The amount you ultimately receive for your business is directly tied to how well you prepare.
At the top of the list of making sure that your business is attractive to potential buyers is to make certain your business is as well positioned in the market as possible. Of course, this is often easier stated than done. Here are some of the best ways to make sure your business is optimally positioned.
Tip One – Start Positioning Your Business Well in Advance
Selling your business isn’t something you should just do one day. You should start positioning your business at least one year before the closing.
Quite often, experts say business owners should always operate as though a sale is on the horizon. This makes a great deal of sense on one hand. If you ever experience an unexpected turn of events and need to sell, then you will certainly be ready. Another reason that this advice is solid is due to the fact that operating as though a sale is on the horizon helps you make certain that your business is running as effectively and efficiently as possible. This also helps with your short and long term decision making.
Tip Two – Always Think About Growth
Another way to ensure optimal position in the market is to always stay focused on growth. Asking yourself what steps you can take to grow your business in both the short term and the long term is a prudent move. You should always know what it takes to launch a new growth stage. As unusual as it sounds businesses can even foster growth by acquisition if well planned. This can show faster results than organic growth helping to foster new markets, add needed employee talent, and decrease the impact of fixed costs.
Tip Three – Customers, Lots of Customers/Clients
You don’t want a prospective buyer to see that you have only one or two key customers or clients. Understandably, this situation should make a buyer quite nervous. It comes across as extreme vulnerability. Having many varied customers or clients is a step in the right direction. Make sure to have an understanding of your customer concentration percentage. As a general rule your business should not have any one customer with over 15% of your total revenue.
Tip Four – Be Ready for Due Diligence
Whatever you do, don’t overlook due diligence. Neglecting or waiting to prepare for the buyer’s due diligence stage until the eleventh hour is quite risky. Have all of your financial, legal and operations documents ready to go. A failure to properly handle due diligence could derail a deal or even reduce the amount you receive. One of the easiest items that will have the most impact on value is the readiness and accuracy of your financials. Invest the time and money to have a professional account/CPA keep your records accurate and up to date.
Tip Five – Understand Your Business’s Strengths and Weaknesses
Every business has strengths and weaknesses. Don’t attempt to hide your weaknesses or overplay your strengths. Be transparent! There is no such thing as a perfect business! Many times a weakness can be turned into a positive in the buyers eyes. As an example, if your marketing efforts have not been consistent yet you have a nice growth curve, imagine a buyer proficient in marketing and what he/she could do to affect future growth.
A business broker is an expert at handling investors and even writing a business plan that you can hand to potential buyers.
Think about boosting your market position while simultaneously increasing the odds that you receive top dollar for your sale. Instead of rushing, take the time to prepare and work with a business broker to achieve the best market position and sale price possible. Planning leads to increase value and a much smoother transaction.Read More
Thinking Vs. Doing: A Consistent Dilemma for business owners.
The train conductor vs. the thinker
Your role as a CEO/Business owner can be divided into two buckets: one for managing and the other for thinking.
The managing bucket is where, metaphorically speaking, you ensure the trains all run on time. In this role, you’re establishing goals for your employees and holding them accountable for achieving their targets. You’re making sure your products and services are of a high quality and that your biggest customers are happy.
When you’re wearing your manager hat, you’re scouring your company looking for small enhancements every day. This obsession with continuous improvement is what big companies call “six-sigma thinking,” but you probably just think of it as building a great company.
The other bucket is reserved for thinking and it’s where you create the future of your company. In this visionary time, you get to design new products, imagine new ways of serving customers, or contemplate where you could take your business in the years ahead.
Your visionary hours are spent dreaming and imaging what your business could be, instead of worrying about what it is today.
The most valuable companies
The question is, how much of your time should you devote to each role? If your goal is to create a more valuable business—one that someone might like to buy one day—data reveals that you should start gradually increasing the time you spend on thinking and hire someone else to do the managing.
For example, after analyzing more than 20,000 businesses who have received their Value Builder Score, it has been discovered that companies of owners who know each of their customers by first name (i.e., managers) trade at just 2.9 times their pre-tax profit, whereas the companies of owners who do not know their customers’ first names (i.e., thinkers) trade at closer to 5 times pre-tax profit.
Further, companies that would suffer if their owners were unable to come to work for three months, receive significantly lower offers when compared to companies that would not feel the absence of the owner for a month or two.
Finally, in a recent survey of merger and acquisition (M&A) professionals, they were asked who they like to see an owner hire if they can only afford one “C-level” executive. The M&A professionals overwhelmingly identified a general manager/second-in-command as the most important role a founder can fill ahead of a chief revenue, marketing or financial officer.
In short, the owners of the most valuable businesses have found managers to ensure the trains run on time while they spend an increasing amount of their energy thinking about what’s next for their business.
To take the 13 minute Value Builder survey and find out your Value Builder Score Click here.Read More
Microsoft’s recent $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn provides an illustrative example of a strategic acquisition – the type of sale that usually garners the most gain for the acquired company’s shareholders.
You may be wondering what a billion-dollar acquisition has to do with your business, but the very same reasons a strategic acquirer buys a $26 billion business holds true for the acquisition of a $2 million company.
The financial vs. strategic buyer
A financial buyer is buying the future stream of profits coming from your business, whereas the strategic buyer is buying your business for what it is worth in their hands. To simplify, a financial acquirer buys your business because they think they can sell more of your stuff, whereas a strategic buyer acquires your business because they think it will help them sell more of their stuff.
One might argue that Microsoft overpaid for LinkedIn given that LinkedIn only generated a few hundred million dollars in EBITDA last year, meaning the good folks in Redmond paid an astronomical multiple of LinkedIn’s earnings.
But earnings are not the only thing strategic acquirers care about when they go to make an acquisition.
Microsoft‘s acquisition of LinkedIn is a classic example of a strategic acquisition. The Redmond-based technology giant has been undergoing a major transformation from being a software company focused on operating systems to a business concentrating on cloud-based software applications. Microsoft enjoys a dominant market share in the basic tools white-collar business people use to get their job done, but other software packages have begun to nip at the heels of their dominance in many product lines.
Take Microsoft Office for example. Many businesses have started to use competitive offerings from Google and Apple. Even more companies cling to older versions of Microsoft Office software, even though Microsoft is keen to move everyone over to the cloud-based Office 365.
In purchasing LinkedIn, Microsoft saw an opportunity to suck data from LinkedIn into Microsoft’s cloud-based software applications, making them irresistible. Imagine you’re a sales person and you just landed a big meeting with a new prospect. You enter the appointment as a Microsoft Outlook event and suddenly the details of the event feature everything LinkedIn knows about your prospect.
Now you can make small talk about where they went to school, the previous jobs they have held and know the scope of their current role – all without ever leaving Outlook.
Microsoft is betting this kind of integration across its platforms will compel more people to upgrade to the latest software applications. While your company is likely smaller than LinkedIn, the same thing that makes a giant buy another giant holds true for smaller businesses. To get the highest possible price for your business, remember that companies make strategic acquisitions because they want to sell more of their stuff.Read More
Have You Discovered Your Recurring Revenue Model?
When it comes to the value of your business, what happened in the past is much less important than what is likely to happen in the future.
One of the most important ways you can shape the future of your business is to create some recurring revenue. Recurring revenue comes from those magical sales you make without really trying. Good examples of recurring revenue models include ongoing service contracts, subscriptions, and memberships – basically any sale situation the customer has to proactively opt out of, instead of in to.
Recurring revenue is critical for the value of just about any small business, and it is equally import for the world’s largest businesses.
Why ICD bought Porto Montenegro
If you’re looking for a fun example of why recurring revenue matters, take a look at The Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD) and their acquisition of Porto Montenegro Marina and Resort. If you happen to be the heir to a European royal dynasty or are a Silicon Valley billionaire, you’ve probably parked your boat in Porto Montenegro (ok that’s maybe not too may of us). Along with 450 berths for the world’s largest super yachts, there’s a 5 star hotel, ultra exclusive residential properties and 250 high-end boutiques to indulge just about any fancy.
Porto Montenegro is the brainchild of Peter Munk, who is best known as the founder of Barrick Gold Corp. Munk fell in love with the natural beauty of the Adriatic coastline and saw an opportunity to buy an old naval ship yard and transform it into one of the world’s most exclusive travel destinations.
So why on earth would ICD, the principle investment arm of the Dubai government, be interested in buying a glorified parking lot in the middle of an old naval base?
Well it turns out that super yachts need a lot of regular maintenance. In fact, the average super-yacht owner spends 10% of its value every year on repairs and maintenance. ICD wanted the steady flow of recurring revenue from maintenance contracts with the well-heeled owners who moored their yacht at Porto Montenegro.
Tomorrow vs. Yesterday
Porto Montenegro is a billion-dollar reminder that recurring revenue is important for large companies, but creating an annuity stream can be even more important for smaller businesses. It can be tempting to celebrate the large project wins or a big sale to a one-off customer, but when it comes to valuing your business, acquirers may discount those as aberrations and focus on the steady flow of your recurring business.
There are a number of “recurring revenue models” that may be of value to your business. To learn more about increasing the value of your business and The Value Builder System click here.Read More
Personal Goodwill has always been a fascinating subject, impacting the sale of many small to medium-sized businesses – and possibly even larger companies. How is personal goodwill developed? An individual starts a business and, during the process, builds one or more of the following:
• A positive personal reputation
• A personal relationship with many of the largest customers and/or suppliers
• Company products, publications, etc., as the sole author, designer, or inventor
The creation of personal goodwill occurs far beyond just customers and suppliers. Over the years, personal goodwill has been established through relationships with tax advisors, doctors, dentists, attorneys, and other personal service providers. While these relationships are wonderful benefits, they are, unfortunately, non-transferable. There is an old saying: In businesses built around personal goodwill, the goodwill goes home at night.
It can be difficult to sell a business, regardless of size, where personal goodwill plays an integral role in the business’ success. The larger the business, the less likely that one person holds the key to its profitability. In small to medium-sized businesses, personal goodwill can be a crucial ingredient. A buyer certainly has to consider it when considering whether to buy such a business.
In the case of the sale of a medical, accounting, or legal practice, existing clients/patients may visit a new owner of the same practice; they are used to coming to that location, they have an immediate problem, or they have some other practical reason for staying with the same practice. However, if existing clients or patients don’t like the new owner, or they don’t feel that their needs were handled the way the old owner cared for them, they may look for a new provider. The new owner might be as competent as, or more competent than, his predecessor, but chemistry, or the lack of it, can supersede competency in the eyes of a customer.
Businesses centered on the goodwill of the owner can certainly be sold, but usually the buyer will want some protection in case business is lost with the departure of the seller. One simple method requires the seller to stay for a sufficient period after the sale to allow him or her to work with the new owner and slowly transfer the goodwill. No doubt, some goodwill will be lost, but that expectation should be built into the price.
Another approach uses some form of “earnout.” At the end of the year, the lost business that can be attributed to the goodwill of the seller is tallied. A percentage is then subtracted from monies owed to the seller, or funds from the down payment are placed in escrow, and adjustments are made from that source.
Who owns the goodwill in your business…. you or the company? From a buyers perspective your business will have more value the more the company owns the goodwill vs. the owner of the business.Read More
The team at Valuebuilder.com recently analyzed the latest data from users of The Value Builder System™ and the findings present an interesting snapshot of the current value of privately held businesses. Below are some of the highlights:
The Business Liquidity Index (BLI) has dropped to its lowest point on record
Each quarter, we measure the proportion of business owners that received an offer to buy their business and express the proportion as an index, 100 being the average. The BLI slipped from 90.9 to 81.8 for the quarter ending March 31, 2016, showing that, compared to the previous quarter, a smaller proportion of business owners had received an offer to buy their business.
Average offer multiple slipped to 3.55 times pre-tax profit
Moving in lockstep with the BLI, the average offer the users of The Value Builder System received in the last quarter dropped from 3.64 times the pre-tax profit in Q4 of 2015 to 3.55 in Q1, 2016. When we isolate larger companies with at least ten million in annual revenue, the average offer multiple goes up to more than 5 times pre-tax profit. The BLI and average offer multiple usually move in the same direction, since very active markets tend to drive up offer multiples and when less offers are made, multiples go down.
Our latest analysis includes data from more than 20,000 users of The Value Builder System from around the world. Of the business owners surveyed, 96% had revenue (annual turnover) of less than $20,000,000, while 4% had revenue in excess of $20,000,000. Findings are considered statistically accurate +/-0.81%, 19 times out of 20.
The latest data shows a slight softening trend in the market for privately held businesses. Therefore, if you’re planning to sell your business in the next few quarters, we recommend you do everything possible to maximize its value, focusing on the eight factors business buyers care about most.